1793 Poem, Samuel Thomson, ‘Epistle to L— M—’

Author: Samuel Thomson

Date: 1793

Source: Poem: ‘Epistle to L— M—, A Brother Bard’, from Poems, on Different Subjects, partly in the Scottish Dialect by Samuel Thomson (Belfast: printed for the author, 1793).

Comments: Samuel Thomson (1766–1816) from Lyles Hill near Templepatrick in South Antrim was the editor of the ‘Poets’ Corner’ in the Belfast United Irishman newspaper Northern Star until the paper was closed down in 1797. He exchanged poems with, and visited, Robert Burns, and published three books containing Ulster-Scots poetry — in 1793, 1799 and 1806. An account of his life and poetry can be found in the Introduction to The Country Rhymes of Samuel Thomson, by Philip Robinson and Ernest Scott (Belfast, 1992).

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Poetry/1700-1799/020

To L------ M------,
A Brother Bard.


While yellow Autumn hies apace,

An’ ripening fiels’ and blighted braes

Confess the waining year:

To you my frien’, in Burns’s way,

I thus sooth up a roundelay,

My drooping spirits to chear.

Ah me! dear L------, the season’s fled —

The flow’ry months o’ joy;

The tuneless wood an’ ravish’d mead

Proclaim the winter nigh.

Come see now, with me now,

How Flora quits the lees;

Whilst Boreas before us

Is stripping all the trees.


But what need I in tears complain,

Or grief beset, in lowly strain,

Thus pour my pliant of woe:

When ’tis the fate of all on earth, —

When ’tis for this we have our birth,

On terra here below.

All flesh is like the grassy vest

That haps the Simmer brae,

When winter cauld the plains arrest,

It withers straight away.

The youngest, the strongest,

Return alas! They must,

With oldest, an’ boldest,

At all events to dust.


What boots it here to grasp at rules?

Even all the knowledge of the schools

Is but a poor resource!

For ay the mair that ye’re inclin’d,

To read this volume o’ mankin’,

Ye’ll like it still the worse.

Aroun’ the warl, look an’ stare,

An’ tell me if ye can,

Where I may find in truth sincere.

Ten social, honest men;

But mask all, each rascal,

Deceiving an deceiv’d:

I true Sir! I vow Sir!

There’s few to be believ’d!


I’ve often read, an’ often heard,

That poortith for the rustic bard,

Doth ever lie in wait:

While partial Fate profuse bestows

On wicked sons o’ tasteless prose,

Even kingdoms, crowns, an’ state!

My mind to me’s a kingdom wide,

Nae mair I wish or want;

Tho’ poortith on my riggin ride,

I’m happily content.

Tho’ tost aft, an’ crost aft,

By faithless, foolish fok’,

I meet still, an’ greet still,

Misfortune with a joke.


My life as like the chrystal rill

That wimpling flows, with sweetest thrill,

Adown the gowany brae:

That ceaseless frae its rocky source,

Pursues its pebbly, winding course,

Still murmuring to the sea

Amid the landscape, lonely here

I up my whistle bla’,

As down life’s cruked path I steer,

To frighten care awa.

With L------e whiles, a book whiles,

To pass a happy hour;

I’m careless an’ fearless

How faithless Fortune lour.


Wi’ glowan heart I’m right content

To see your name wi’ mine in prent,

In humble rural rhyme:

The swains unborn of other days,

Will jocund chaunt our simple lays,

Adown the vale o’ time:

Whilst you an’ I neglected sleep

Aneath some mossy stone,

Where nightly owls their vigils keep,

And wae-worn turtles moan!

Reposing, there dosing,

We’ll wear the years away,

Baith roun’ly, an’ soun’ly,

Until the Judgment day.


Come haste my brither! in a clap

Unhouse your dapple-winged crap,

An’ mount wi’ right good will:

Withouten ether whip or spur,

He’ll tak the road with airy birr

An’ light on Parnas’ Hill.

Already on its airy height,

I see ye tak’ your stand!

The blissful vales come full in sight,

Of fair Arcadia’s land.

Haste bring then, an’ sing then

Ilk ferlie ye saw there —

For views there what news here?

Come haste an’ let me hear!


August 27, 1791.


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